This week marks five years since First Lt. Richard Collins III was killed on the campus of the University of Maryland by a student who was a part of an online white supremacist group. A plaza was dedicated in Collins' memory Monday just steps away from where he was killed.
The timing of the dedication after yet another mass shooting motivated by hate emphasized why the new plaza matters.
“This is the continuation of a fight against racism in our society,” Bowie State University President Aminta Breaux said.
Collins was stabbed and killed by UMD student Sean Urbanski in 2017 in what was described as an act of hate the night before Collins was to graduate from Bowie State.
“The loss of anybody is a tragedy, particularly of someone with so much promise,” said U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Urbanski belonged to an online white supremacist group but was not convicted of a hate crime because Maryland's laws didn't support the charge. That's changed thanks in part to Collins’ parents work with lawmakers.
“Hate is hate,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said. “It is not a mental health disorder.”
The fact the dedication for the hallowed space follows another tragic mass shooting fueled by hate was not lost on those who gathered there.
“We must resolve as a civilized nation to take a stance of zero tolerance toward perpetrators of domestic violent extremism,” Collins’ father said.
“This tragedy is not an anomaly but the latest instance in a long, painful history of white supremacist violence in America,” UMD President Darryll Pines said.
“We refuse to let racism and white supremacy have the last word in the meaning about our son's life,” said Collins’ mother, Dawn.
In addition to the plaza, a lot has changed in the five years since Collins’ death. The University of Maryland and Bowie State University partnered to work on courses to try and teach students about social justice, and Dawn Collins says she hopes to spread that message internationally.
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